Originally published: February 2, 2010
Last updated: February 2, 2010 - 10:38pm
NBC affiliates say they are cautiously optimistic that the merger of Comcast and NBCU can "strengthen and extend" their ability to serve up free services to the public, but not without clear and enforceable conditions that define and enforce Comcast's stated commitment to them.
One of those, they said, needs to be strong, structural separation between affiliate relations and retransmission consent negotiations, so that the combined company would not be able to force the affiliates to "accept unfavorable affiliation agreement provisions to obtain market-based retransmission consent payments."
Michael Fiorile, chair of the NBC TV Affiliates Board, will testify at a House hearing Thursday and he's likely to highlight the following concerns:
1) The migration of NBC network content to cable properties or the under-nourishing of NBC network programming in favor of investments in cable channel fare: "The disappearance of popular news, sports, and entertainment programming from the NBC network would be unacceptably harmful."
2) Comcast could bypass the affiliates via a cable or Internet VOD model.
3) The combined company could use its leverage to "undermine affiliates' ability to negotiate fair retransmission consent agreements." On that score, Fiorile had a condition to propose: "We tentatively believe that a strong set of structural separation requirements for the subsidiaries of Comcast that will negotiate retransmission consent agreements and those that will administer the network's relations with affiliates can permit the combination to go forward."
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